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Never has my gaming backlog felt so insurmountable until 2016. I thought I did reasonably well keeping up with popular releases such as Uncharted 4 and Dark Souls III to several lesser known titles that I mostly played for the sake of review (and shall remain unnamed since many don't deserve to be). Well, until the second half of the year. I quickly learned that buying at least five new games a month does not lend itself to a manageable backlog. Despite wishing for more free time, and wishing certain things didn't happen with the world at large, 2016 was an impressive year for gaming even if many of the more noteworthy ones were at the tail end of it. I suppose I can pretend that The Last Guardian has not been released yet for just a while longer while I try and haphazardly present my top 10 games of 2016 without anymore regret. I0. Inside I have a real respect for games that just toss you in and know the player is smart enough to pick up the fundamentals. I have a bigger respect for games that continue to expand upon such ideas with an actual logical escalation of puzzles. A showpiece example of both is playdead's game Inside. Though the developer“s prior work, Limbo, bounced right off me; Inside does in a lot of ways feel like a much better constructed Limbo. With plenty of clever puzzles, an intriguing dark atmosphere, andâ€¦ probably one of the most bizarre finales in terms of gameplay makes it more than worthy to note on my own personal list. 9. Titanfall 2 First-person shooters I rarely go out of my way to play, much less for their single player content. But, both this year“s Doom as well as Titanfall 2's campaign proved otherwise. I personally enjoyed Titanfall 2“s single player just a bit more than the resurrection of the cult-classic shooter in raw gameplay and the briskly paced level design. There is an immense satisfaction towards controlling the powerful and different mech loadouts, or speedily zipping around and wall-running on-foot, that is downright unrivaled in any other first-person shooter I“ve played. Not to mention that the campaign also has very neat gameplay moments that heightens its inherent strengths even more. 8. Shiren the Wanderer : The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate Official GP Review As devious as it is charming Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate climbs right up there to become one my all-time favorite RPG roguelikes. Alleviating many grievances I have with the subgenre with a tangible sense of progression, an insane amount of hidden content and depth, and plenty of old-school charm made it a bliss to play.... despite it occasionally kicking my teeth in. 7. Thumper Thumper is quite unlike any other rhythm game I“ve ever played. I may not quite latch onto its â€œrhythm violence gameâ€ tagline, but no doubt that there is strong brutal-like feeling with its intense rhythm gameplay even as you are just flinging beetles around. With F-Zero levels of gameplay momentum, and the finesse needed of compelling rhythm games (especially for the crazy bosses), creates a highly rewarding gameplay experience, if not a bit unrelenting at times. 6. Blazblue: Central Fiction I make no bones about it that I generally prefer Arc System Works“s fighting game efforts to most others. While I had a lot of fun with Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator, and even enjoyed the likes of non-Arc System Works titles like King of Fighters XIV and Street Fighter V as well, the one fighter that I most felt at home with during 2016 is Blazblue: Central Fiction. The incredibly complex and dense playable character roster, stylish music and 2D visuals, and various smart refinements makes it one of the outright best fighters on the market. Even the huge story mode, which been utter nonsense that almost rivals Kingdom Hearts over the years, also impressed me with the surprising amount of narrative resolution that it had. 5. Final Fantasy XV For a while I have been really unsure as to what my stance is on current Final Fantasy releases. Add an absurd amount of wait time towards Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which as everyone knows became Final Fantasy XV, only added to my increasing doubt with the series going forward. And, while it is certainly easy to nitpick many aspects about it, from disjointed storytelling to gameplay quirks, Final Fantasy XV manages to be much better than the sum of its parts through sheer charisma and heart. There is a wonderful dynamic between the goofball main characters and the journey they have along the way that helps weave it into one the very best games in the series. 4. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE It“s weird that we got official entries of both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem in 2016, and my favorite of them was the fanfare spin-off of both. I originally had a strong knee-jerk reaction to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE with its saccharine approach to anime tropes, especially of the J-pop variety. Quickly enough, however, I warmed up to the game underneath once getting acquainted to the final release. Chock full of lighthearted personality, Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei gameplay fanservice, and probably some of the most insane mechanical feature creep I“ve seen in an RPG in a long while (in a really good way, I think), makes for a whimsical RPG that I never knew that I wanted. Though I may ponder what Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem might've been like, I'm willing to contend with my dislike of J-pop culture in order to play the highly enjoyable RPG that is Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. 3. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir Official GP Review I was struggling quite a bit to justify putting this on my GOTY list. In my brain, Odin Sphere came out almost 10 years. It was also a game that deeply disappointed me and I would go as far as to say that the actual gameplay of it was just plain bad. At the same time, an excellent remake named Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir magically fixes the game in a way I never thought possible. So lovingly refined was it made, by entirely revamping gameplay mechanics and level design in the best ways possible, and then some, that it has retroactively altered my entire opinion of a game. Which is still near unfathomable to me, because man do I dislike original Odin Sphere and most Vanillaware games but dote upon Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir. 2. Overwatch I won“t tell you my exact hour count, but I“ve put a disgusting amount of time into Overwatch. You know how I complained about not having enough time to play games in my backlog? Well, I'm pretty sure I could've finished a couple of RPGs with the amount of time I have thrown at Overwatch. But anyway, Overwatch is a total blast to play. Rich with personality/polish, an incredibly varied playable cast, rewarding team-based gameplay, and plenty of positive reinforcement built right within the game makes the consistent fun I've had with it far outweigh the criticisms I could level against it. And from someone who pretty much never plays first-person shooter multiplayer is incredibly high praise. 1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II My adoration of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is somewhat rather specific to me. I would not go out of my way to really recommend going through one entire lengthy previous game to truly appreciate an equally long sequel. The dialogue-heavy nature and dated presentation alone I'm sure would push many people away from the series. Plus, I was not that enchanted with the original Trails of Cold Steel to hammer down that point even more. That said, because I have developed quite a history with the Trails of- series, it has made me that much more impressed with it being hearkened back in Trails of Cold Steel II. Not only is it an excellent follow-up to the prior game with much better storytelling, fantastic character development, and smart (if not a bit too familiar with recycled assets) gameplay enhancements, but it is also astoundingly meticulous with its consistent world-building. This is complemented further by the superb localization. To be blunt, there were so many moments throughout that made me downright giddy during Trails of Cold Steel II's massive main narrative. From references to very serious cameos, some as deep as featuring characters from entirely separate trilogies like Trails in the Sky, that had me on the edge of my seat as the narrative unfolded. It was also the first RPG in a really long time that totally fooled on what I thought was the ending, only to continue for a third longer. Not because I wanted it to end, but because just that much happens throughout. And surprisingly, it was totally warranted despite jamming in so much character development, narrative resolution, as well as fiendish twists prior to it. Oh, and there are like hype mecha fights, and tons of things to do like a Final Fantasy VII-ish snowboarding mini game, and that's pretty cool. But seriously, guys. You don't know how excited I am for Trails of Cold Steel III on PS4. YOU. HAVE. NO. IDEA.
barrel posted a article in Vita/PSP ReviewsDeveloper: Spike Chunsoft Publisher: Aksys Games Platform: PS Vita Release Date: July 26, 2016 ESRB: E for Everyone Shiren the Wanderer is sort of like the great granddaddy of roguelike dungeon crawlers that only a select few actually remember by name. I imagine people are likely aware of its many "Mystery Dungeon" offshoots, such as Pokemon: Super Mystery Dungeon, or maybe even the Final Fantasy-themed Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon, but not poor ol' Shiren himself. I can't really blame people either as actual localized Shiren titles have been far and few between over the years. Either way, out of seemingly sheer randomness, we are blessed by Aksys with Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate on Vita. Though originally a former (and Japan-only) Nintendo DS title, the enhanced Vita release of the fifth main entry proves that the time-worn adventurer still has more than a few worthwhile tricks to survive even now. The pretense in this title is rather brief, but to the point -- refreshingly so. Veteran wanderer, Shiren, and his talking ferret companion wind up in a foreign land with whole new problems. In his newest adventure, Shiren finds himself wanting to help a local townsfolk, Jirokichi, who is adamant on changing the cruel fate of his dying friend. In order to do so, however, Shiren and Jirokichi have to literally challenge the god of destiny by climbing the Tower of Fortune and collecting the dice of fate. Hence the wordy, but surprisingly accurate, game title. Right at the start, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate comes off immediately as charming. It pulls off an old-school RPG charm and feels completely earnest about it. Everything from the simple, but well-realized, 2D aesthetic to the brief, but cute, main story just feels right at home with releases many console generations past. This certainly helps as Tower of Fortune has no problem being quite mean and "old school" in regards to challenging gameplay as well. As the case goes for Mystery Dungeon releases, specifically Shiren, combat is turn-based and dungeons are random. Basically every action, or step, Shiren takes constitutes as a turn making the entire roguelike flow feel very methodical. Also part of the signature roguelike formula is a rule where when Shiren dies, all of the money and held items he had are lost. It is a very harsh consequence, and honestly, you will die more than you succeed, especially early in. That said, Shiren does quite a few things to help you mitigate it. Roguelike shenanigans will occasionally deal an unfair hand (...or many consecutively), but most of it can actually be offset by preparation or coming to understand the many small nuances within its gameplay. And I do truly mean many. Thankfully, most key gameplay naunces are explained rather well through the many optional, but insightful, tutorials. Aspects like knowing matching gear sets give you buffs, how to synthesize gear to carry over valuable skills from various items, learning how to deal with many tricky enemy types, or that you can't read helpful ability scrolls at night time without proper lighting seem small but can make all the difference when trying survive. And, contrary to the series' standard rules, you can even prevent the loss of gear if you cough up some cash "plate" them in advance, which will have them appear in a Lost and Found after death. Tower of Fortune is also one of those games that starts out very basic, yet continues and continues to open up as you uncover its many layers. Beyond standard dungeon exploration, just taking a stroll around the various towns throughout will lead to unraveling the surprisingly breadth to the game: such as a point based shop that rewards players for stepping on switches mid-dungeon, finding companions to fight at your side, the ability craft/name entirely new items, heck, there are even several minigames -- one of which is essentially Minesweeper. Players can also dabble with online functionality as well, like requesting revives from other players or being one to help those in need. Though, I think it is an absolute crime that co-op multiplayer is delegated to local ad-hoc only. Still, the gameplay is just dense in ways one would not expect. This applies the most in the post-main story content. I personally beat the main story in about twenty hours (I feel like it would have been a fair bit less if it were not for some harsh lessons...), and the post game is more than likely to double that for more hardcore adventurers. There are so many optional sidequests and dungeons that unlock after the main story that it is honestly absurd in both the amount of time you can throw at it and difficulty in trying to surpass them. Granted, for as much fun as I have had with the main story, I did get discouraged considering how strict certain optional dungeons were, such as increased hunger rates and lack of recruitable companions, and how much more reliant the were on luck they felt like. But I'm sure more seasoned adventures can prove me wrong with the right setup. So, what is one to make of a of Mystery Dungeon series? Let alone the fifth entry? Well, if anything, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate absolutely relishes in series' pedigree. It embraces the harsher, yet addictive, qualities of roguelikes and goes above and beyond.with its surprisingly charm and gameplay nuance. All in all, while it does not deviate from too far from an established formula, it makes a fine example of why it does not need to. Pros + Genuine old school RPG charm from the ground up + Simple, yet quite addictive, dungeon-crawling formula with a very deceptive amount of depth underneath + Rewarding structure that allows players to mitagate most of the harsher gameplay aspects with smart preparation + Absurdly huge amount of post game content that can keep players occupied for quite a while Cons - Roguelike shenanigans is certainly in place and skill can not always compensate for really bad luck - The consequence of dying is still quite harsh and can be rather off putting for those not used to the "Mystery Dungeon" formula Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Rich with charm and surprising depth Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is likely to captivate many fans of roguelike dungeon crawlers Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.